Chapter 17: Joining the Battle

“Everyone, draw your swords!”

Morgan Skyship’s vigorous voice shakes the surrounding trees. As the commander of the group, he has granted all the warriors present permission to engage in full-force combat.

At the same time, Morgan manifests his own Soul equipment and confronts Ouken’s attack head-on.

From the blade that blocks the invisible edge transformed into a storm, he felt the impact as if struck by a massive iron hammer. An ordinary warrior might have been blown away, along with their Soul equipment.

However, Morgan is an experienced warrior who once ascended to the rank of Flag General of the Sixth Flag of Green Woods. Despite his age, his exquisite skills remain intact, as he skilfully deflects the raging winds and dodges Ouken’s attack.

Seeing this, Ouken clicks the tip of his beak as if sneering.

While the two confront each other, Sidney and Sai are also in motion. The two of them head not towards Ouken but towards the Kijin attacking the wives and concubines from behind.

“Soul equipment, activate!”

Sai’s low voice and Sidney’s smooth voice overlapped, and their soul equipment appeared in each of their hands.

Sai’s soul equipment was a spear that resembled his older brother Shukuya, with a similar shape. However, the colors were different; the older brother’s spear was black like a shadow, while the younger brother’s spear was red like blood.

“Twist and extend, Longinus, the Saint Slayer!”

Responding to its wielder’s voice, the red spear raced through the air at a tremendous speed. The spearhead traced a path like lightning as it attacked the Kijin.

In response, the Kijin attempted to use the concubine he was holding as a shield.

Sai noticed this, but he didn’t stop his attack. And as the red spear was about to pierce the concubine’s body – the spearhead changed.

With a squishy sound, the tip twisted. Like a snake, the red spear bypassed the concubine’s body and continued to attack the Kijin.


The Kijin, clearly not expecting this change, let out a flustered voice. He quickly twisted his body to avoid a direct hit, but the Saint Slayer’s spearhead had deeply slashed his side.


Annoyed, the Kijin threw the concubine he had been holding onto the ground with all his strength and descended to the ground himself. He must have judged it difficult to deal with Sai’s irregular spear attacks in the air.

The slender woman who had been thrown to the ground let out a shrill scream, but Sai paid no attention to her. He felt no obligation to risk danger for a concubine whose name he barely knew, unlike his lord’s legal wife and Ragna’s mother, Mitsurugi Emma. He had freed her from the Kijin’s restraint, so he thought she should manage to escape on her own. That was Sai’s true sentiment.

In stark contrast to Sai, Sidney Skyship was striving to achieve both defeating the Kijin and saving his lord’s concubine.

“Weep, Murasame!”

Sidney’s soul equipment, Murasame, was known not only for its performance as a weapon but also for its beautiful appearance. It had the design that the Seirin warriors idealized and was renowned as the most beautiful in Demon Island.

The blade was always wet with dew, and when swung once, it created mist; when swung twice, it caused a storm of freezing rain. Moreover, it could use the mist to show illusions to the enemy.

Sidney utilized this to create a false version of himself behind the Kijin, closed the distance at once while the enemy was distracted, and freed the hostage.

Of the three hostages taken, the Seirin warriors quickly reclaimed two.

And the last hostage was released almost simultaneously.

The third Kijin, who had been holding a baby, screamed and fell to the ground. The one who had circled around behind the airborne Kijin in an instant was Gozu’s younger sister, Cecil Sima. In Cecil’s hand was a long, glowing blue sword that she had somehow acquired.

“You did it, Mother!”

Seeing her mother land on the ground with her soul equipment in her right hand and the baby in her left, Cecil’s child Ibuki cheered.

Tickled by the child’s voice, Morgan quietly informed Ouken.

“Now it’s four on four, a complete stalemate, Lord Taizan. From now on, it would be best if you faced us head-on without resorting to tricks – gah!?”

Before his words could finish, a sharp pain shot through Morgan’s side. It was a burning sensation as if he had been stabbed with a heated iron skewer.

Ouken in front of Morgan wasn’t moving. Sidney, Sai, and Cecil were holding down the Kijin behind them.

Morgan, grimacing and looking back, saw the figure of a fifth Kijin. No, not just five. Just as Morgan had been attacked from behind by an unseen assailant, Sidney and the others had each been ambushed as well.

In other words, it was four against eight. Ouken’s mocking laughter echoed in Morgan’s stunned ears.

“Four on four? A complete stalemate? Hahaha, you’re quite mistaken. Did you think that there were only three people under the command of Taizan? Did you think I was just wagging my long tongue without any intention?”

Ouken had lured out the hidden Mikatana troops by dangling the hostages and had hidden Taizan’s hidden soldiers by playing with words. That was Ouken’s plan.

From Ouken’s perspective, he could have scattered the enemy head-on without resorting to such tricks. However, doing so would have resulted in some casualties.

This time, Ouken had brought his personal soldiers, who had no connection to the Nakayama army. They were warriors who had once been directly under Taizan. Using his position as a follower of the temple of Light, Ouken had borrowed a divine artifact for invisibility and loaned it to his subordinates.

All of this was to reduce the attrition of his forces, which had decreased in number due to the ongoing wars. Not killing Morgan instantly was also part of this ploy.

Seeing Morgan collapse to the ground, coughing up blood, Sidney let out a scream-like cry.


“Sid, don’t take your eyes off the enemy!”

Scolded by Sai, Sidney quickly came to his senses, but he was already at a disadvantage, facing two opponents by himself. If he showed any weakness, there would be no chance of recovery.

Sidney was quickly cornered by the combined attack of the two. He had no time to create illusions, desperately fending off the slashes from both sides. Meanwhile, Morgan’s cries of agony continued.

Sidney gritted his teeth to the point of breaking.

The enemy’s aim was to break Sidney and his companions’ concentration by tormenting Morgan. Even though Sidney understood this, he couldn’t help but fall into the enemy’s trap. Having lost both his parents at a young age, Morgan was Sidney’s only blood relative. He couldn’t ignore the pained voice of the grandfather who had raised him like a parent.

And the warriors directly under Taizan were not foolish enough to miss another opportunity.

“Damn it!”

The Kijin on the left lunged at Sidney, trying to collide with his body. Judging that he couldn’t avoid it, Sidney decided to face it head-on.

Naturally, his back was left wide open. The Kijin on the right quickly circled around to Sidney’s rear and swung his sword at him.

The slash, which would have undoubtedly been fatal, was deflected by a red spear thrusting in from the side before it could cut through Sidney’s body.

Kumon Sai had intervened.

Thanks to this rescue, Sidney narrowly escaped the lethal slash, but in exchange, Sai suffered significant wounds on his back and right arm. These injuries were the work of the two Kijin who had been fighting with Sai.

Blood dripped down Sai’s dark skin from the wounds, and with each drop, he lost grip strength in his right hand. Standing back-to-back with Sidney, Sai clicked his tongue softly and switched the spear to his left hand.

“…Sai, I’m sorry.”

“Hmph. Aren’t you supposed to say ‘thank you’ at times like these?”

“…Right, thank you, Sai.”

As the two exchanged brief words, the Kijin gradually closed the distance. The situation had gone from one versus two to two versus four, and it couldn’t be taken lightly. Sai had sustained severe injuries, and Sidney was practically held hostage by Morgan.

In effect, the battle was decided—at least that’s how Ouken judged it.

The remaining female warrior among the concubines was unexpectedly challenging. She skillfully fended off the attacks of the two Kijin without allowing them to get close and didn’t neglect to look after the surrounding concubines and children.

It was unclear whether the warrior was disguised as a concubine or whether there was a concubine who had once been a warrior, but either way, she was an opponent not to be underestimated.

──In that case, exploiting a weakness was the basis of strategy. Winning easily was Ouken’s, and by extension, the Taizan royal family’s, military tactic.

With a swift kick to the ground, Ouken headed towards a child. He hadn’t missed the child calling the female warrior “mother” moments earlier.

“Can the Mitsurugi warrior still abide by the rules when her child is taken hostage? Haha, quite intriguing.”

Morgan was already crawling on the ground, his legs pinned to the earth, unable to move. As mentioned earlier, Sai and Sidney were in a precarious situation, and Cecil was doing her best just to protect those around her.

Ouken approached Ibuki with large strides, not showing any sign of caution. Emma Mitsurugi, who was protecting Ibuki from behind as if embracing her, noticed Ouken’s movement.

Emma, who stood up and hid Ibuki behind her, pulled out a short sword from her bosom.

Emma had no knowledge of martial arts. The short sword was not for self-defense, but a tool to avoid disgrace if she ever fell into the hands of an enemy.

Ouken easily saw through this and clicked his beak mockingly.

“You can’t hurt me with such a dull weapon. Judging from your attire, you don’t seem to be a concubine either. May I ask your name?”

“I have no name to give to a lawless ruffian who knows no manners.”

“Is that so? Well, regardless of who you are, your fate will be the same. I will gouge out the eyes of all the women and children here, and line them up in front of the Mitsurugi family head. That should make the haughty one turn pale, hahaha!”

In response to Ouken’s threatening sneer, Emma didn’t say a word.

She just pursed her lips tightly and put more strength into the hand gripping the short sword. It was at that moment when Ouken added more words.

“I’m looking forward to tasting those beautiful blue-green eyes――huh?”


A figure burst out from behind Emma with a high-pitched yell.

It was Ibuki Mitsurugi, who had been protected by Emma.

“Ibuki!? Stop it!”

A scream-like warning was released from Emma’s mouth, who had been desperately enduring Ouken’s oppressive force. However, Ibuki didn’t stop, of course. He had jumped out to protect Emma; there was no way he would stop.

“Take this, villain!”

Ibuki yelled with determination and swung the wooden sword made by his uncle Gozu. The big swing he took was a feint, aiming for the area below the knee―the shin, a vulnerable part of the body that can’t be trained.

Being struck there with full force would be “so painful that even Uncle Gozu would cry,” according to big sister Ayaka.

Ouken, dressed in a priest’s robe, didn’t have any protective gear on his legs. He had been taught not to deliberately strike that area during practice, but there was no need to hold back against a villain. Aiming for the opponent’s shin, Ibuki struck down the wooden sword with all his might――


Receiving an impact like hitting an iron pillar, Ibuki inadvertently dropped the wooden sword. Even though the sword was made by Gozu, it didn’t possess enough power to shatter the defense of Kei.

Ibuki hurriedly reached for the fallen wooden sword. However, before Ibuki’s hand could grip the handle, Ouken’s toes forcefully dug into Ibuki’s abdomen.

Taking the merciless kick head-on, Ibuki clutched his stomach and coughed violently. Ouken looked down at Ibuki with arrogance while picking up the fallen wooden sword.

“Hmm, as a crafted item, it’s not bad, but you cannot hurt me with a wooden sword that hasn’t been enchanted with magical power.”

With that said, Ouken put strength into his clawed fingers and snapped the wooden sword with a crack. Ibuki, who had been glaring at Ouken while holding his kicked abdomen, let out a mixed cry of anger and pain upon seeing that.

“You, you…!”

“Heh, those are good eyes. In ten years, perhaps you could have become a great warrior.”

Ouken’s voice was soft, and one could even feel a hint of kindness.

However, his next action was at the opposite end of kindness. He grabbed Ibuki’s face with his right hand and lifted him into the air.

As Ouken put strength into his right hand, the small skull creaked, and his five hooked claws tore through the skin, sinking into Ibuki’s head.

At first, Ibuki gritted his teeth, trying not to scream. Moreover, he desperately hit Ouken’s right hand, trying to break free from the restraint. But Ouken mercilessly crushed Ibuki’s resistance, tightening his grip on the child’s head with enough force to shatter the trunk of a large tree.

It took only a short time for a scream to escape from his small mouth.

“Aaahhh! It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”

That voice clearly reached the ears of his mother, Cecil, who was fighting the Kijin. Ouken didn’t say anything like dropping the weapon. Instead, he tormented young Ibuki as if torturing him.

It was inevitable that Cecil’s swordsmanship would become dull. The Kijin confronting Cecil didn’t miss the opportunity and quickly pinned her down, forcing her to crawl on the ground.

Once Ouken confirmed this, he suddenly let go of Ibuki’s face with his right hand. Released from the restraint abruptly, Ibuki fell to the ground, pulled by gravity.

Not understanding the situation, Ibuki tries to cry out again. Ouken kneels down, bringing his face closer to Ibuki, and exerts his Kei from up close, intimidating Ibuki.

Exposed to the intense Kei from such a short distance, Ibuki lets out a small scream and shivers. There’s no trace of his previous vigor. To Ibuki, Ouken speaks in a soothing voice.

“Young warrior, in honor of your courage, I shall spare your life and the life of one other person you care about.”


“I’m saying I won’t kill you and someone else important to you. Now, point to the person so I can understand who they are.”

With that said, Ouken grabs Ibuki’s neck like a kitten and suspends him in the air once again.

It’s at this moment that Ibuki realizes his mother is being pinned to the ground, and he screams.


“Heh, she looks like she’s in pain, doesn’t she? If things continue like this, your mother’s arm will be cut off, then her leg, and finally, her head will be severed, and she’ll die, you know?”

“No, no! Stop it!”

“If you want me to stop, point to your mother and say it. Say that you want me to save both you and your mother. If you do that, the two of you will be saved. However—”

Ouken grins sinisterly.

“In exchange, everyone else here except for you and your mother will die.”


“I told you, didn’t I? I’ll save only you and the person important to you. In other words, I will kill everyone else who isn’t important to you.”

“Wh-what is that…?”

“In other words, those who are about to die are as good as killed by you. They could have been saved if you had said they were important to you, but because you didn’t, they will be killed. We will be the ones to kill them, but you are the one who let them be killed.”

Ibuki shakes his head, unwilling to accept what Ouken is saying. He doesn’t understand, and he doesn’t want to understand. His feelings are clearly evident.

Ouken, with a sneer, speaks to Ibuki.

“If you won’t choose, that’s fine too. In that case, we’ll kill you, your mother, and everyone else. Now, make your choice, little Warrior—”

“Stop it!”

The one who shouted to stop Ouken from tormenting Ibuki any further was Emma. Her usually gentle face was now stained with anger as she glared at Ouken with lightning-like intensity.

“How dare someone claiming to be a public official threaten a young child like this! I am Mitsurugi Emma, the wife of the seventeenth generation Sword Saint, Mitsurugi Shikibu. If you desire merit, defeat me and make it your accomplishment!”

“Oh, my! I am truly honored to have my name spoken by such a rude and lawless person. Indeed, as the wife of the Sword Saint, your elegance is undeniable.”

“If you are satisfied, please release everyone. Whether you want to take hostages, use them as sacrifices, or make them your trophies, there should be nothing more valuable than the wife of a Sword Saint.”

“Heh, it’s not that simple. There might have been room for negotiation before the battle started when neither side’s strength was certain, but now that the outcome has been decided, you are as good as in my hands. I have no reason to spare the others just to obtain you.”

With that, Ouken turned his gaze to the dagger Emma was holding.

“Feel free to take your own life with that dagger. Even if you die, your corpse will remain. It might be amusing to tear out your innards and force this child to eat them.”

Having silenced Emma with those words, Ouken brought the captured Ibuki closer to his face and whispered with a mocking grin.

“This is perfect, little Warrior. You seem to be close to that woman named Emma. Choose between your mother and Emma. We’ll save the one you choose and kill the one you don’t. If you can’t decide within the time I count to ten, we’ll kill both. Shall we split the gouged-out eyeballs between you and me? Now, let’s begin. One, two—”

“Wait, please…”

“Three, four—five, six, seven, eight!”

Suddenly speeding up his counting, Ibuki cried out in tears.

“Please wait!”

“No waiting! Now we’re at nine. Who will you save? Who will you leave to die? Or would you rather both be killed and share the taste of eyeball dumplings with me? Come on, hurry up or it’ll be too late. I’m about to say the final number. And… te—”

Just as Ouken, certain of his victory and wearing a joyful expression, was about to count the final number, his voice suddenly took on a tone of confusion and stopped abruptly.

A person stood in Ouken’s field of vision.

It was not someone far away. They were close enough that their breaths could be heard. A black-haired person stood literally right in front of his eyes and nose.

The eyes glaring at Ouken had a darkness similar to peering into an old well, causing all the hairs on his body to stand on end just by facing them.

Ouken couldn’t help but feel puzzled. Until just a moment ago, there was no one there. Of course, if someone had been so close, he would have noticed them even if they were hiding their presence with a divine artifact.

There should have been no one there. It was impossible for someone like him, who held such a high position and was beloved by his people, to allow anyone to approach so close without detecting their presence. So there should have been no one there.

At that point, Ouken remembered. There was a Warrior among the enemies who could manipulate illusions. This must be an illusion created by that Warrior.

The trembling body, the shuddering heart – everything must be the work of the illusion—just as Ouken concluded this, the person moved.

Like a flash of lightning, the outstretched right hand grabbed the opponent’s face, just as Ouken had done to Ibuki moments before—


His head was tightly squeezed like it was in a vise.

The sounds of the skull creaking and groaning could be heard. With no trace of mercy in the tightening grip, Ouken immediately discarded his earlier assumption. The one in front of him was definitely not an illusion!

Releasing Ibuki from his grasp, Ouken pressed his left and right hooked claws against the arm of the person restraining him. With claws that could cut through steel, human bones could be easily crushed. The defense of Kei would be meaningless if it was neutralized by his own Kei.

With that in mind, Ouken forcefully drove his claws into his opponent’s arm, only to contort his face in astonishment the next moment.

The claws didn’t pierce at all. They couldn’t even tear a single layer of skin, let alone break the bone. Thinking it was ridiculous, he tried again, only to see his hooked claws shatter with a sound, leaving the one loved by the Demon gods speechless.

Immediately afterward, an ominous melody reached Ouken’s ears. The voice he heard for the first time belonged to the person right in front of him, without a doubt—

“Their blood boils, their hair blazes, and their eyes seethe.”

“What, really!?”

As the fire magic was about to be activated, the heat swirled within the caster’s palm.

Naturally, the heat was directly transmitted to Ouken, who was firmly grasped. His face burned, and his eyes were seared with pain, but Ouken struggled in vain as the restraint did not budge at all.

“The Fortress of Kouketsu, the Skull Throne.”

“Stop it, even if it affects the others—Gaaaah!?”

The force gripping his face intensified, and a part of Ouken’s skull shattered with a sound. Unable to bear it, a scream escaped from Ouken’s mouth.

Seeing this, Ouken’s Taizan soldiers moved all at once.

The first to act was the Kijin who had stabbed Morgan Skyship from behind. He was the closest to Ouken and had already neutralized Morgan. The Kijin tried to leap forward with great momentum, but he couldn’t move.

A sharp glance from the human who turned around. Just that was enough to make their feet feel as if they were sewn to the ground. They were intimidated by the mere gleam in the human’s eyes.

“『The fluttering flag of rebellion, those who fall prostrate shall be a sacrifice to the wicked blade』”


Unable to bear the pain of his shattered skull and the ever-increasing heat, a roar burst forth from Ouken’s mouth.

Using not only his arms but also his legs, he desperately moved his body to try and escape the restraint, but all his resistance combined couldn’t even move the opponent’s little finger. And then――

“『Bloody-eyed Flame Hand, grant death’s embrace to my enemies――Flame Princess』”

With the final chant, the fifth-circle fire true magic was activated. The power surged, fed by the magic power welling up from within the caster, and its force exploded at point-blank range.

From Ouken’s wide-open beak, a deafening scream erupted.

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